It was a Friday evening and my partner and I were pushing a pram with our one-week-old daughter down our local high street. While we were on our way home to face another sleep deprived night, it seemed as though everyone else was heading out for an evening of revelry. As the scent of stale beer, sticky tables and dried piss escaped out of one pub we passed, I started crying. Silently, because I didn’t want to alert anyone to the fact that I was a hormonal mess – but real tears were spilt. Not because I had ever had any desire to frequent this unsavoury watering hole before, but because in that moment it smelt like freedom. It smelt like a time I could get up and go, do as I wanted when I wanted without anyone really depending on me. I was the master of my own time, whether that was as simple as taking a leisurely bath or the option of a spontaneous night out in a dodgy pub. In theory I knew that life would never be quite the same after having a child, but for whatever reason, in that precise moment the reality felt overwhelming.
“How are you feeling” is a question you’re asked a lot as a new mum. How do you summarise the seismic shift that occurs when you become a parent? How do you explain how it feels to meet the little human you grew but know nothing about? How do you sum up the 1,000 emotional states you traverse daily?
My stock response has generally been “It’s tough, but we’re muddling through”. Given the fact that gazillions of women have given birth over the millennia I tend to skimp on the details of my unremarkable feat, but here are just a few of the uncensored, unfiltered thoughts that have run through my mind during the first three months of motherhood:
“My baby is crying, therefore I am a terrible mother”
Why can I not see into her little mind and know instinctively what’s wrong? What is it about my frantic, woman-on-the-brink attempts to soothe her that she finds unsoothing? I am inept and everyone knows it.
“If people offer me help, it’s because they think I’m a terrible mother”
First commandment in the Capricorn Bible – thou shalt do everything in thou’s power to avoid accepting help.
“My baby is a genius”
My baby reached a developmental milestone one month before Google told me she would. Therefore, she is Einstein.
“My baby is an asshole”
Nah, whose devil child is this? Can’t be mine.
“My baby is the most beautiful being to have ever graced this earth”
Me, biased? Never!
“What kind of world have I bought this perfect little being into?”
The ice caps are melting like Calippos. Politics is careering to the right faster than a jet-fueled shopping trolley with a dodgy wheel. What is the future that awaits her?
“I feel guilty for [insert any one of 1,000,000 potential reasons]”
Today I left her sitting on the couch watching Peppa Pig alone for 20mins while I took a leisurely poop. If she’s held back a year at school, it will be all my fault.
“Am I boring now?”
Who am I anymore? These days I only talk about sleeping patterns and baby gadgets. I haven’t worn anything that doesn’t have an elasticated waistband for weeks.
“Where’s the ESC key?”
I’m exhausted and this is the hardest thing ever. Maybe I can get a fake passport on Gumtree and run off to Costa Rica.
“I’m nailing this”
Today I managed to have a shower before midday #winning
“Is my vagina broken?”
After the rigmarole of birth, surely my innards are scrambled. Will my pum pum ever be tun up again, or did it fall out in the delivery suite along with that gigantic placenta?
“This mummy scene isn’t for me”
Desperately seeking mummy friends (without wanting to look desperate).
“When does it get easier?”
Wow, so this parenting malarkey really is as difficult as my parents said it was. Shocked.
So yup, it’s been tough and insecurities are ever present, but each day gets a little easier. Every day I feel a little less incompetent and a little more comfortable being a mum. Every day spent with my daughter feels like a privilege and seeing her smile in the morning makes me feel so much love I could burst like a piñata. I appreciate the small things more (like an extended shower or a precious couple of hours to write) and I’m starting to enjoy the new normal. I’m also learning to swallow my foolish pride and accept help from the support network we are blessed to have. Also pleased to report that my vagina isn’t broken (they really are absolute marvels BTW).
On an important note, it’s so critical for us to check in with ourselves as new parents. Baby blues for the first couple of weeks after giving birth might be normal (hence my tears outside the smelly pub), but feeling completely overwhelmed all the time could be an indicator of postnatal depression. It affects more than 1 in every 10 women within a year of giving birth and can also affect fathers and partners. If you’re not sure if what you’re feeling is ‘normal’ or not, don’t hold it in – here’s a link to support services if you’re based in the UK. The pregnancy health charity Tommy’s also has a free pregnancy line you can call for advice from midwives on 0800 014 7800 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm).